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"Causes" of diabetes

End the myths & misinformation

Despite popular belief, diabetes is not caused by eating too much sugar, and people don’t “give themselves” diabetes. Popular media often depicts disease and people with diabetes in an inaccurate and harmful light.

There are several different reasons why someone may develop diabetes, including genes, family history, ethnic background, and other environmental and lifestyle factors. The type of diabetes also matters, and the reason someone may develop type 1 diabetes is very different from why another person may develop type 2 diabetes. There is no single cause of diabetes, and it is often a combination of multiple factors.

Type 1 diabetes

Type 1 diabetes is called an autoimmune disease because the body’s system for fighting infection, your immune system, attacks and destroys the cells in your pancreas that make insulin. As a result, the body is left without insulin.

Researchers think that your genes or the environment may be responsible for triggering type 1 diabetes. TrialNet is a study that is working to determine the causes of type 1 diabetes and possible ways to prevent it.

Type 2 diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is much more common than type 1 diabetes, affecting 90% of those living with diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is the result of not enough insulin being made in the pancreas and insulin resistance when the body isn’t able to use the insulin it makes. When this happens, glucose (sugar) in your blood is not able to enter the cells where it should get used for energy.

Several factors impact one's risk for developing type 2 diabetes, including family history of type 2 diabetes, ethnic background, living with obesity and other lifestyle and environmental factors. You are also more likely to develop type 2 diabetes if you are not physically active.

Assess your risk

Think you or someone you love is at risk of having diabetes? Take the CANRISK test to know your risk.

Gestational diabetes

Gestational diabetes occurs due to hormone changes during pregnancy, which affects the ability of insulin to function properly. A family history of gestational diabetes can increase one’s risk of developing gestational diabetes, along with genetic, diet and lifestyle factors.

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